Labor of Love

November 17, 2014
Rosalind Black
John Kallas ’14
Photo credit: Jordan Pomeranz and Alex Epstein

Lifted by the verses of Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan, and propelled by dreams of socialist revolution, John Kallas ’14 travels east Cleveland knocking on the doors of the over-worked and under-represented. As a field organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU), his job is to bring together healthcare workers in Cleveland who want to join 30,000 others throughout Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky in the fight for better wages and working conditions.

As a politics and history major, Kallas first delved deep into study of the labor movement with Professor and Department Chair of Politics Chris Howell. His honors project, a look into the role of strategic research and corporate campaigns in the contemporary American union strategy, which Howell supervised, granted Kallas a deeper understanding of the labor movement in the United States, and continues to help him navigate his day-to-day work as an organizer.

When he is on the job, Kallas also draws from his experience bowling for and captaining Oberlin’s intercollegiate team, coached by Tom Reid ’80, associate director of the Student Union. “There are definitely similarities between bowling and organizing,” Kallas says. “Both are challenges that demand that you to exist in continuous creative response to whatever is present.”

Kallas is never bored at work, and plans to continue contributing to the labor movement, whether as a field organizer, a campaign leader, or an academic or researcher. “Of course, a field organizer sounds like a good stepping stone towards socialist revolution,” he says.

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